Ten interesting things we read this week

Some of the most fascinating topics covered this week are: Business (Searching for resilience), Managing Yourself (Learns the tips and tricks to promote yourself), Technology (Tech startups are helping coders build/test software faster), Work Culture (Why you hate work), Science (What made early hominins smart) and Health (Reasons why you can't get back to sleep once you wake up in the night).

Published: Jul 17, 2021 08:00:00 AM IST
Updated: Jul 16, 2021 01:02:37 PM IST

Image: Shutterstock

At Ambit, we spend a lot of time reading articles that cover a wide gamut of topics, ranging from zeitgeist to futuristic, and encapsulate them in our weekly ‘Ten Interesting Things’ product. Some of the most fascinating topics covered this week are: Business (Searching for resilience), Managing Yourself (Learns the tips and tricks to promote yourself), Technology (Tech startups are helping coders build/test software faster), Work Culture (Why you hate work), Science (What made early hominins smart) and Health (Reasons why you can’t get back to sleep once you wake up in the night).

Here are the ten most interesting pieces that we read this week, ended July 17, 2021.

1)     Searching for resilience [Source: Edelweiss Journal
 In uncertain times, it is your resilience that matters the most. And this essay on resilience explains how it is something that’s key for survival. Resilience, or the ability to survive hard times, is something that we value instinctively. In the financial realm, the size of our savings is supposed to matter most. The bigger our account statement, the more we have, the more secure we are reckoned to be. But resilience is simply not a matter of size. A man with $100 million can lose his fortune just as easily as the man with $100 thousand. Resilience is an unseen aspect of economic life. We cannot count it or touch it.

It doesn’t appear on financial statements. Yet its presence gives us assurance and allows us to sleep well at night, while its absence drives men and women to the unemployment office, machinery to the scrap heap, and businesses into bankruptcy. Even unseen, it is a factor in nearly every decision a business owner makes. Resilience is not a destination. Seeking resilience means abandoning a narrow definition of success like sales growth or annual returns and instead becoming prepared for any eventuality that can cause serious harm. When it comes to our own savings, unseen and unquantifiable issues such as resilience matter. In times of frenzy and financial excess, that which is unseen matters most of all.

2)     How FrontRow, Celebrity School, Unluclass can build India’s MasterClass [Source: The Ken]
Since pandemic, online learning has picked up pace like never before. Also, there have been many players joining this trend. Many companies are trying to sell celebrity-taught classes to Indians. In the last 15 months, at least four platforms have cropped up, including FrontRow, Unluclass, Celebrity School, and Whiz League. They feature celebrities including actors Manoj Bajpayee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, singers Shaan and Monali Thakur, chefs Vikas Khanna and Ranveer Brar, and tennis player Sania Mirza. Each course includes 15-25 pre-recorded video lessons that are 10 minutes long on average. This is why the courses aren’t expensive: they can be as cheap as Rs 499 ($6) and go up to Rs 2,999 ($40), depending on the platform. Users can also buy lifetime access packs that include all courses on a particular platform. They cost between Rs 3,999 ($53) and Rs 8,999 ($120).

All the platforms are modelled on the global pioneer in this space, San Francisco-based MasterClass. Learning from MasterClass, India’s celebrity-led online learning platforms have got a lot going for them. While Indians are increasingly paying for content, these celebrity-led platforms still have multiple problems left to solve: from figuring out the right pricing, to producing quality content, and the evergreen issue of piracy. Until Indian platforms reach the level of MasterClass in terms of their library, they’ll have to keep solving for India-specific problems. As the industry grows and more platforms enter the mix, sometimes the best way to learn and grow is by observing, whether it’s your Indian peers or the American role model.   

3)     Savvy Self-Promotion [Source: HBR
Everybody loves when they are praised and appreciated. But, when it comes to self-praising, there’s a limit. Nobody likes someone who keeps on bragging about themselves all the time. And although bragging is by and large socially inappropriate, there are exceptions. Here are some ways to draw attention to your accomplishments without penalty. 1) Share when asked: If someone requests information or an answer that requires you to reveal positives about yourself, you should oblige. Research indicates that when someone details an accomplishment in response to a direct question, others don’t judge that person as any less agreeable.

2) Share when others are sharing: In one study, researchers followed 106 job seekers, taping their interviews and measuring the extent to which they engaged in self-promotion. Those who took time to outline their strengths, experience, and achievements were more likely to be rated by their interviewers as suitable for the job and of greater interest to the organization than those who didn’t brag as much. 3) Find a promoter: Athletes, musicians, and actors hire publicists and agents for good reason. Intermediaries are seen as less self-serving and thus provide an aura of objectivity. 4) Strike a balance: Research indicates that when people present a balanced picture of themselves, rather than discussing only successes, they come across as more credible and affable. Finally, if you find yourself constantly fighting the urge to brag, ask yourself why you feel the need. Everybody loves praise, but are you overly dependent on it?

4)     Booting up developer economy: how tech startups are helping coders build and test software faster [Source: The Economic Times Prime]
There have been numerous applications online these days. Developing software/application is a tough task. And there have various companies that have sprung up to help these developers. In the latest instance of rising interest in the space of developing software, cross-border testing platform BrowserStack became a unicorn in June, with its valuation jumping four times to USD4 billion in just one year. The trend is visible globally as well, with Microsoft acquiring GitHub and NPM (Node Package Manager) in year 2018 and 2020, respectively, and cloud communications company Twilio buying API platform SendGrid in 2019. Google pioneered this trend in 2016 when it bought Apigee Corp. While the past decade was marked by the growth in SaaS (software as a service), there has been a quick shift from on-premise to cloud-based solutions. This means that software also had to move from being a one-time licence purchase to a tiered subscription service.

“Every part of your business is already on the cloud. So, we are past that threshold. But now, with tooling, you get to quickly work on non-essential work and focus on building a competitive advantage. This also makes you resilient to changes in the future, because you’ve integrated the best-of-breed software in your business. People want to be resilient through a multi-cloud approach,” says Rajoshi Ghosh, co-founder of Hasura, a company that helps developers build GraphQL APIs. With better workflow optimisation, the developers are now forced to think from a business perspective and not just technology.

5)     Why you hate work [Source: The New York Times
Investing in employees is the key to success for any company. But with the pandemic, many employees are experiencing burnout due to round-the-clock work from home environment. Srinivasan S. Pillay, a psychiatrist and an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School who studies burnout, recently surveyed a random sample of 72 senior leaders and found that nearly all of them reported at least some signs of burnout and that all of them noted at least one cause of burnout at work. Finding the solution to this would be the start to actually thinking about your employees.

Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work. A truly human-centered organization puts its people first — even above customers — because it recognizes that they are the key to creating long-term value.

6)     What made early humans smart [Source: Nautilus]
In this interview, Jeremy DeSilva talks about how human evolution was so fun. He is an anthropologist and the author of First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human. He explains his research of how we evolved from ones who already walked upright, and not from hominins that walked on all fours. He says, “my interpretation from the key time periods when bipedalism was emerging, is that apes are not moving on their knuckles. They’re not adapted for life on the ground. Instead, they’re up in the trees, moving with hand-assisted bipedalism, much like an orangutan, gibbon, and siamang do now.”

Further he elaborates on why we didn’t go extinct if bipedalism made us slow. He says, “What are the advantages in freeing the hands? We could carry objects—food and babies. There are also thermo-regulatory adaptations. By being on two legs rather than four, you can disperse heat better. Maybe those things became factors that allowed us to survive.” He also talks about how the early hominins were cooperative and bipedalism could be the reason for that.

7)     Bitcoin saves gold from basel III [Source: Bytetree
A real-world case for crypto payment rails now seems inevitable, courtesy of the Basel III rules, which are impacting the inner workings of the gold market. As regulators put up barriers, technology comes to the rescue. The invention of Bitcoin, and its payment rails, will improve the functioning of the gold market, enabling it to thrive for another thousand years. Gold liquidity is estimated to be around $150 bn per day, which is huge. The unallocated gold market drives this as it has been the cheapest, most efficient and easiest way to do business. Yet it now requires 85% funding with high quality liquid assets (HQLA) such as gilts, bonds and treasuries.

Just as investors often seek higher returns for investing in long-term illiquid assets, they are happy to pay a short-term premium for liquid assets. The same is true for Bitcoin. Its appreciation over time has coincided with growth in network activity and liquidity. Gold tokens are relatively young. Adam Cleary launched Bullion Bitcoin but was ahead of his time. Gold tokens can move around at lightning speed, and represent direct, physical ownership. There is a wide range of gold tokens and the aggregate assets are around $500m. Imagine a hybrid product, an ETF that also embraced blockchain technology side by side. You’d have a large and liquid gold pool that could also be settled over the blockchain. If gold can embrace crypto, it will remain at the forefront of portfolio diversification for another thousand years.

8)     The Chinese Dragon by Rajiv Bajaj: Must read for those building global products from India [Source: nextbigwhat.com
In this article, Rajiv Bajaj talks about how Chinese products had taken over in India, but couldn’t penetrate the automobile industry. Talking about their entry into the segment, he writes, “Year 2005, Chinese motorcycles attacked India with products which were 30% cheaper. Many dealers started selling them. Press predicted demise of Indian manufacturers. Within 6 months they went broke. Their quality was no match to Indian motorcycles. They never came back again.” He also talks about how country by country in Africa, in South America, Indians captured the market driving the Chinese out. In 2018, India became the largest manufacturer of two wheelers in the world (twice the size of China).

Between three Indian companies Hero, Bajaj and TVS, India today dominates the world market. Honda a Japanese company has shifted most of its R&D to India. He questions why this was not done in TVs, in Computers, in Mobile phones, in Pharmaceuticals and other industries? The same country, the same labor laws, the same infrastructure but not the same entrepreneurs. He writes how the government, the people and the corporates are responsible for the Chinese dominance. He explains how we all are responsible and how we can take the Chinese head-on in all sectors.

9)     I’m often wide awake at 3am. What do I do to get back to sleep? [Source: The New York Times]
Getting enough sleep is important to keep your body functioning throughout the day. It’s normal to wake up few times during the night. Waking up at night is usually harmless. Most people have no trouble falling back asleep and may not even remember their nighttime awakenings the next morning. But if you frequently wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself struggling to fall back asleep, there could be an underlying problem. There can be many reasons behind why you are not able to get full sleep, but here are few suggestions that might help you. 1) Limit your evening alcohol intake: In small amounts, alcohol can act as a sedative, causing you to fall asleep faster. But it can also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night as your body is metabolizing it.

2) Avoid consuming any caffeine after 2pm: Because it can linger in your system well into the evening. If you drink a cup of coffee at 3:30 p.m., about a quarter of the caffeine can still be in your system 12 hours later. 3) Avoid napping late in the day: This can make it harder to fall and stay asleep at night. Taking late naps will reduce what scientists call your homeostatic sleep drive, which is essentially your body’s pressure to fall sleep in the evening. 4) Keep a strict sleep schedule: Try to get up at the same time each morning (aim to get at least 15 minutes of morning sunlight, which helps to shut down melatonin production) and get into bed at the same time in the evenings.

10)     The space in space is filling fast: how mega satellite constellations will power Internet in future [Source: ET Prime
The broadband connectivity battle is shifting from the ground to space. Connectivity providers across the globe have one key objective in mind — bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas. And satellite-based connectivity is well positioned not only to help them solve this problem but also to provide connectivity in areas where it is otherwise not practically possible to build terrestrial networks. This article talks about the next generation connectivity solution in an interactive manner. A fictitious software junkie talks to a fictitious virtual assistant, and they are the perfect example of a cool relation between human and artificial intelligence.

Their conversation takes you through the future where connectivity is not wired anymore. It takes you through the functioning of satellite-based broadband network. SpaceX-backed Starlink and Bharti-backed OneWeb are the front runners in this domain. Even Amazon-backed Project Kupier also expressed interest, but they are yet to initiate their operations. Starlink is already offering beta services in around 11 countries and has over 1,700 satellites in low Earth orbit. OneWeb is yet to start the services, but already has 254 satellites orbiting above us. Data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filings indicate that key players have sought approvals for over 80,000 satellites in low Earth orbit and if we include other smaller players and already-existing satellites in the orbit, we are looking at around 100,000 satellites orbiting above us in the near future. That’s how our future can evolve.  

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